K-PAX Racing will be in familiar territory with the second-generation Bentley Continental GT3 in during Rounds 7 & 8 of Blancpain GT World Challenge America action at Sonoma Raceway. The team, which will officially return to its home track for the first time since making its switch to Bentley in 2018, will look to gain ground in the championship and will have added support from its local fans and supporters.
“Being a local team and having our race shop based here makes this a very special race for us,” K-PAX Racing Program Manager Darren Law said. “We have a lot of local fans that will be coming out. We also have a big event planned with Bentley this weekend with their ‘Continental Centenary Celebration’ and we will have members from Family House supporting us as well.”
A 19-car GT3 field will headline the week at Sonoma Raceway’s 12-turn, 2.52-mile road course, with the pair of K-PAX Racing Continental GT3s locked in a close battle at the top of the championship rankings. Together, the team has had strong showings in the series’ first three events, collecting multiple podiums and victories along the way.
In six races, K-PAX Racing has been awarded pole position four times. At VIRginia International Raceway (VIR), the No. 9 of Álvaro Parente and Andy Soucek claimed both poles. The team has also stood on the top-step four times – sweeping in the third and fourth rounds at VIR. Both the No 9 and No. 3 of Rodrigo Baptista and Max Soulet split the victories. In pursuit of the team’s fifth crown, K-PAX Racing has led the field into the green flag and on to the top step of the podium at least once at each event.
The team attributes its fast-track to success from its diligent preparation as well as its testing program. K-PAX Racing is very familiar with Sonoma – other than a slight variance in track configuration – which should be advantageous. The venue is where the team first tested the second-generation model before the start of the season.
“We first tested these second-generation models at Sonoma at the start of the year, so this time it’s the ‘true test,’” Law said. “We have data from the previous generation car, but the competition has stepped up this season. It will be an interesting weekend because this track does not favor our cars as much as some of the others and it is a slightly different configuration that what we ran in the test so we will see how it compares in true race conditions.”
Through six rounds of series competition, K-PAX Racing leads the Team Championship by a 26-point margin – a title it is defending from 2018. The No. 9 of Parente and Soucek are one-point shy of tying for the lead in the Drivers Championship (104 points), while the No. 3 of Baptista and Soulet are still in the championship conversation in third (92 points).
“Having now reached the half-way point in the season, we are in a good position from the points standpoint,” Law said. “We are leading the Team Championship, and we have all four drivers in the top-three positions for points. There is still a long way to go, but we are thinking big picture and strategy becomes more critical. We have some good momentum and are looking forward to this race.”
Notably, Parente will have the chance to make team history as its most winningest driver all-time. The four-year team driver is currently tied with Randy Pobst with 14 victories to his name. Since his title run in 2016, Parente has podiumed in the last two events under the series’ former one-driver format at Sonoma Raceway.
On Tuesday, K-PAX Racing made its yearly stop at Family House San Francisco since joining the race against pediatric cancer in May 2017. There, the team drivers were able to show families the Continental GT3, as well as a production model provided by Bentley Americas. K-PAX Racing will have the support from members of Family House attending Sunday’s finale.
Family House serves as a home away from home and a pediatric guesthouse for families of children with pediatric cancer and other life-threatening illnesses by providing physical comfort and emotional support, free from financial concerns. For more information, familyhouseinc.org.
Álvaro Parente – No. 9 Bentley Continental GT3 – “It’s a home race which is great. I really like that area, and racing at home is always good for the team. The configuration will be quite interesting, because I’m not sure if I’ve done this one before. It only changes two areas, but still it’ll be interesting.
I don’t think this will be one of our strongest tracks. But we’re motivated to do well, and we’ll try to get the maximum out of the car and get a good result. We’ll challenge for the best position possible, and every moment is important when you’re fighting for a championship. There’s still a lot of points on the table, so we have to continue to do what we have been doing – making no mistakes on the stops, having each driver ‘on it’ and finding the best setup for the car. If we don’t have a car that can challenge for the win, which we’ve had in all the previous races, then we’ll try to go for the next best position.
Sonoma changes a lot – even from the morning and into the afternoon – and it’s going to be a lot warmer than when we tested. So, we’ll have to adapt. When it gets hot there, the track gets a little greasy and it’s aggressive on tires which will be a key factor. But we’ve been doing everything right between testing at most of the tracks on the schedule except for Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, and I know what to expect from the car here. So, I think we’re ready to go racing here.”
Andy Soucek – No. 9 Bentley Continental GT3 – “The fight for a championship is ‘on’ in America. It’s a very important weekend for us in Sonoma with Bentley on-site and with Family House. I’m very much looking forward to a lot of the activities off the track as I am on it. I’m not sure if it’s going to be the best track for our car, so we’ll have to make the most out of what we have. I still think we can do well.
It’s important that both cars are going into this event in very strong [championship] position. It shows that we have done our homework well, and we’ve achieved some great results early this season. So no matter what happens, the fact that we are both in the top-three in the championship and fighting for the lead is already good news. We come into this race week in strong position, and it’s important that Bentley’s customers and the brand itself are aware that we’ve done a great job.
When it gets to the race in Sonoma, we’re going to get a push from everyone supporting us but unfortunately, it does not make us any quicker. We always try our best. We’ll either try and make it happen or push as hard as we can so everyone around the K-PAX Racing brand can live what we’ve lived through the first three events of the season — to get to really enjoy these wins and podiums.
But, we also have to be realistic. This is a track that may suit the other cars a little more. We need to be cautious and not overly excited — not expecting more than what we are capable of doing. We need to find that sweet spot to be there, also knowing that our competition is going to be strong.
We have a good reference from when we first tested there. Unfortunately, we will not be racing on the same layout. It’s a slightly different corning pattern, so we will have some additions than when we tested the car before the season. Most of the track though — about 80 percent — will be exactly the same. So, it will be interesting to see the progress we’ve made from the start of the year — putting the car back to where it all started.”
Rodrigo Baptista – No. 3 Bentley Continental GT3 – “I’m looking forward to a great race in Sonoma. It’s our home race, and we will do our best to try to get the best result possible. It will be a busy week with the Family House yearly visit, the Bentley events and all the guests we’d expect at any home race.
We tested the new car back in February for one day, but the conditions were totally different. We need to use the free practices to see where we are setup-wise, so I don’t want to predict anything right now. But I think will be a competitive weekend. Again, I will do my best to achieve the best result for Bentley and for K-PAX Racing.”
Max Soulet – No. 3 Bentley Continental GT3 – “It’s the team’s home race which makes it special, and we have a lot of guests from Bentley in attendance for the event. So, it’s going to be busy week for us, and I’m excited. I’m not sure how strong we are going to be here yet even though we did some testing, which went well. We’ll see where we are compared to the other teams when we get there.
I think we’ve improved a lot through a lot of the testing we’ve done, but Sonoma is a very particular track. We’ll use what we’ve learned so far this week, but we’ll have to be very cautious and take this week step-by-step. Having Bentley Americas there to support us is special and it will motivate us to put on the best show we can.
I like the first corner the most because it’s fast and quite tricky, but the configuration will be a little different from when we tested there. So, we’ll have to see when we get there.”
Source. K-PAX Racing/Photo. K-PAX Racing/Bob Chapman